tv NBC Nightly News NBC February 24, 2011 5:30pm-6:00pm PST
on the broadcast tonight, blood in the streets as his empire crumbles. gadhafi has spoken again, blaming the revolt on drugs and bin laden. americans are scrambling to get out of libya and our own richard engel will report from there again tonight. more mind games. military-style psychological tricks used on members of congress who control the funding for the war in afghanistan. tonight an officer has gone public. bracing for it. across a big section of the south tonight for big, bad weather, including february tornados. and the dress rehearsal today for the royal couple, william and kate. on-the-job training. also here tonight, what's killing the old-school easy bake oven. "nightly news" begins now.
captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening. while the whole world watches, it apparently now has come down to this, moammar gadhafi is holding on to control of his stronghold of tripoli but he's lost control of large parts of his country, mostly in the east with fresh fighting breaking out around the clock and around tripoli. tonight there's reason to believe he's highly rattled by the fighting, the uprising. he gave a speech today that was hard to follow and make sense of, even by his standards, and as he spoke, more of his territory was changing hands. we begin tonight again inside libya with our chief foreign correspondent, richard engel, who's in the city of benghazi tonight. richard, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, brian, from benghazi. this is the unofficial capital of the rebel movement. lawyers and judges are administering the city. there's even now a radio station
here called free libya, and the rebels say tripoli is next. the fighting is closing in on tripoli. rebels and ruthless mercenaries hired by gadhafi are battling for control of villages less than 100 miles from the capital. >> the streets were being blocked off by sandbags, by blocks, by bricks, by anything that people could use to try to prevent any pro-regime forces from entering into the streets. >> reporter: in the town today, 40 miles west of tripoli, at least ten people were reportedly killed in fighting. but some of the worst violence has been here in benghazi, where hospitals are filled with wounded. >> there is more than 300, more than 300 in benghazi and injured
more than 3,000. >> reporter: doctors say the victims were shot with bullets and anti-aircraft rounds. many were executed at close range. [ speaking foreign language ] >> reporter: but today colonel moammar gadhafi downplayed the violence and offered a radically different explanation in a bizarre and revealing radio address. we were in a car as he spoke. his words were slurred. he mumbled, with long pauses. i've listened to speeches in arabic of middle east leaders for 15 years. this did not sound like the same person. gadhafi is speaking now on state radio. it's very difficult to follow. he's all over the place. he's already mentioned the kurds in northern iraq, the unabomber indyia, and saying the people carrying out this revolt are taking drugs that make them insane. in the address gadhafi claimed al qaeda is behind the revolt. osama bin laden is slipping
libyans hallucinogenic pills in coffee with milk and the pills are distributed in mosques with help from the united states. a u.s. official today described gadhafi as, quote, nuts. his family members also seem wildly out of touch. gadhafi's son, saif, appeared on television to claim tripoli is safe and secure. but rebels say gadhafi is holding libya hostage. u.s. officials say the dictator is armed with chemical weapons and has a sovereign fund of $32 billion, more than enough to buy mercenaries and loyalists. thousands of foreigners are still trying to escape the fighting and get away from libya's apparently irrational leader. >> it's just been constant. constant shooting. >> reporter: a british warship evacuated its nationals from the port in benghazi, but the airport in tripoli remains crowded and chaotic, full of people desperate to leave,
afraid of what gadhafi might do. benghazi, brian, is firmly under rebel control, and the rebels here tell us they believe they have enough force, enough momentum to push out gadhafi in a matter of days. >> richard engel from benghazi in libya tonight. richard, thanks. you saw the people trying to leave. these are very tense times for more than 100 americans stranded in libya and for their families back home in the states who are finding it very tough to get realtime information about their loved ones. the plan tonight is to literally ferry many of the americans along with some other foreigners from the libyan capital of tripoli to malta, an island in the mediterranean. the trip delayed by high seas and huge swells out on the water. our martin fletcher is there tonight. martin, good evening. >> reporter: hi, brian. that plan has not been very successful at the moment. there's 167 americans on the boat, 118 nationals from other countries and they're waiting for the weather to change.
now, conditions on the boat must be pretty bad. they have been waiting on the boat for about 40 hours. it's a 200-foot catamaran chartered by the american government. there are no beds on board but we're told they are getting food and water. nobody has been able to get through to them on the boat to ask the americans how they're doing but family members have told nbc news that they're very frustrated with the lack of information from the state department. making the problem greater is americans have not been able to get permission to land charter planes at tripoli airport to ferry people out by air. other nations have had more success. the turks have been able to ferry out 5,000 turkish citizens from the port of benghazi. the greeks have been able to ferry out chinese citizens, thousands of those, but they don't have the same weather conditions as in tripoli. so now all the americans on the boat waiting in tripoli can do really is look at the weather, hope it gets better, and the ferry owners told us here in
malta that they're hoping to set sail tomorrow, brian, weather of course permitting. >> well, we're hoping for some happy arrivals there in malta. martin fletcher reporting live for us tonight. martin, thanks. president obama has publicly condemned the violence in libya, but the problem for the u.s. and other countries continues to be the inability to shape events while watching these events unfold. our chief foreign affairs correspondent andrea mitchell has more on this from our d.c. newsroom this evening. >> good evening, brian. the president talked to the leaders of france, great britain and italy today trying to organize a united front against gadhafi. tomorrow nato will meet and discuss among other options a no-fly zone. i'm told that is a very remote possibility, difficult to implement. the u.n. will likely vote next week to suspend libya from the human rights council and could launch investigations that could eventually go to the international criminal court. the europeans have voted to take steps toward tougher sanctions and arms embargo and president obama can take similar steps by executive order. but will any of this impress gadhafi who is described by
experts and you heard richard engel as both confrontational and delusional. so officials say it is possible that none of these steps will prevent the regime from retrenching and responding more violently. >> all right. andrea mitchell in d.c. tonight. andrea, thanks. now we turn to a startling allegation about the u.s. military in afghanistan. a reporter for "rolling stone," the same reporter whose award-winning profile of general stanley mcchrystal led to the four-star general's resignation has a new story out. in this one an american general is accused by one of his own officers of using military psychological tactics, known in the trade as psy-ops, on u.s. senators to get funding for the war. our pentagon correspondent, jim miklaszewski, has our report. >> reporter: the explosive charge in an article for "rolling stone" claims the u.s. army illegally ordered soldiers in psychological operations to manipulate american senators into providing more support for
the afghanistan war. >> 4:59 a.m. >> lieutenant general william caldwell, in charge of training afghan troops, was seeking more money and american soldiers to to target lawmakers with a propaganda campaign filled with favorable news on the training and the war to win their votes. but using psychological operations against any americans is illegal under any circumstances. lieutenant colonel michael holmes of the army national guard told nbc news he refused to follow the order. >> we weren't going to do it. we just flat out drew a line in the sand and said we're not going to do this. this is illegal flatly. >> reporter: the information campaign was reportedly aimed at the senate leaders in military affairs. senators john mccain, carl levin and jack reed, even joint chiefs chairman admiral mike mullen. >> what was the intent? were there any regulations violated? if there was, there has to be suitable punishment for violations.
>> but when holmes objected he was shocked by the response from one commander. >> he screamed at me literally. he screamed at me in front of witnesses and said if i tell you to do it, it's not illegal anymore. it was just crazy. it was surreal. >> reporter: intelligence experts agree. >> you've got people trained in propaganda whose job it is to bamboozle the enemy apparently attempting to bamboozle senators. >> reporter: pentagon officials say it's not clear there was ever any intent to manipulate anyone. to make sure, general david petraeus has ordered a three-star general to conduct a full investigation. jim miklaszewski, nbc news, the pentagon. big story out of texas tonight. a college student from saudi arabia under arrest, accused of planning to build and set off bombs in terrorist attacks around the united states. the fbi says this case broke open only because someone noticed something that wasn't quite right. our report from our justice correspondent, pete williams.
>> reporter: inside this apartment in lubbock, texas, the fbi says, were enough chemicals and equipment to make a powerful military-style bomb. all gathered, prosecutors say, by a 20-year-old college student, khalid ali-m aldawsari. investigators say the tip that broke the case came just three weeks ago when a north carolina chemical company notified the fbi that he ordered a suspiciously large supply. >> hope that we were helpful and i hope that we thwarted what could have been a real tragedy. >> reporter: the shipping company in lubbock also alerted police when aldawsari sought to have the chemicals sent to its office because hazardous materials could not be sent to his apartment. even so, a former fbi bomb expert says he was well on his way to succeeding. >> in terms of the type of explosive he might have created, yes, it would have been a high explosive mixture. >> reporter: after getting the tips, the fbi secretly searched aldawsari's apartment and e-mails. agents say in a handwritten
diary, he claimed he had been planning to commit a terrorist attack in the united states since he was in high school in saudi arabia, where he studied hard to get saudi government scholarships to come here. it was, he wrote, quote, the support i need for jihad, god willing. the fbi says he researched possible targets online, dams in colorado or california, new york city streets for possible car bombs, even the dallas home of former president george w. bush. >> you know, you can only go by his words, and it was clearly, as he stated, his intention to construct this device and use it. >> reporter: investigators say he had not yet built a bomb or chosen a target, but they say he would likely still be at it if those two companies had not sounded the alarm, brian. >> pete williams in our d.c. bureau tonight. pete, thanks for that. the shuttle "discovery" went into space today for the last time. it was first launched when reagan was president back in '84. it carried john glenn back into space years later. it's got a crew of veterans headed to the space station.
beautiful launch, burning enough fuel to fill two swimming pools per minute. enough acceleration to hit 9,000 miles an hour, just six minutes into the flight. beautiful in florida, but behind it to the west, the long tail of a storm system, whipping across the mississippi valley, carrying some big, bad embedded weather along with it. so much so the weather channel has troops deployed in advance to cover it. meteorologist jim cantore among them. he's in downtown memphis tonight. jim, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, brian. only four tornados in the month of february for the memphis area. let's hope tonight is not the fifth. but this is a far-reaching storm that's going to affect a lot of people through the day on friday. look at this, snow from kansas city up through cleveland into northern new england. heavy rain and wind will spread all the way to the east coast with high wind warnings even out for new york city as we're expecting gusts to about 50 miles an hour tomorrow. you know what that's going to do to the airports. then the atmosphere, brian, will reload as we get in towards sunday in this same area across
the midsouth. it will once again be threatened with severe weather. the story not totally written yet, we'll find out by the end of the night. as they say, welcome to spring. >> what an unbelievable season it's been already. jim cantore in memphis, jim, thanks. the pentagon today awarded a $35 billion contract to build a new generation of air force midair refueling tankers to boeing of washington state. it's the third time the air force has tried to close the contract in a process that's been a major scandal. a top boeing executive and a senior air force officer went to jail over this back in '04. in the end boeing beat out the european-owned airbus which had been awarded the contract in '08, a decision that boeing appealed. when we come back on this busy night, if you're worried that all this unrest is going to cost us more for gas, you have good reason to be. later, we'll show you their first official event together as a couple and what it launched as a result.
beyond the violence and the drama we've been watching this people's revolt in the middle east and north africa now, a lot of americans want to know what's this going to cost me where the price of gas is concerned. the oil market was wild today. crude oil hit a high above $103 a barrel, then wound up down at $97 and change. still a very high price. every american is going to ultimately feel this. our report from nbc's tom costello. >> reporter: it may be half a world away, but the trouble in libya is reaching all the way into candy rittenberg's edible arrangements store in maryland. fresh fruits and vegetables come in every day, but her delivery van needs gas.
>> we're paying more for the produce. we're paying more for gas. >> reporter: as a franchisee, she alone can't control the delivery charge. >> delivery is $12, and that is a national delivery fee. i cannot change that. >> reporter: for those who have missed the news, this gas station in massachusetts decided to spell it out. the mideast violence is serious, expect higher prices. but if most libyan oil goes to europe and china, why is america feeling the pain? >> if the chinese and europeans who get libyan oil lose that oil, they'll come to the market and compete with us for the available supplies and that's what's bidding the price up. >> reporter: now eight million home heating oil customers could get hit hardest with those prices, forecast to hit $5 a gallon. with jet fuel up 58% since the summer, airline tickets are surging. >> for business travelers, a little over $130 round trip this year so far. for leisure travelers, close to $45 right now. >> reporter: meanwhile, u.p.s. is upping its fuel surcharge
while fedex has cut its earnings forecast. a drag on the economy, but the president today was optimistic. >> we actually think that the we will ride out the libya situation and it will stabilize. >> reporter: experts say $4 a gallon now seems certain. if libya's oil production remains shut down, $4 could be a floor for even higher gas prices to come. tom costello, nbc news, washington. up next here tonight, how congress has managed to kill the old-school easy bake oven, an icon of growing up in america.
overseas tonight a team of firefighters from los angeles has now joined the desperate search for survivors in the rubble of that tragic earthquake in new zealand. the l.a. search and rescue team includes paramedics, e.r. docs, engineers, rescue specialists. the death toll there is now officially over 100. in marking black history month, today was designated motown day at the white house. music students from around the country were invited to a workshop hosted by the first lady. founder barry gordy and smokey robinson were there. john legend sat down at the piano in the state dining room channelling his inner stevie and a surprise guest, nick jonas, belted out the four tops.
this evening the east room will be filled with motown sounds at a special concert coming soon to a television near you. the easy bake oven is in the news. if you knew someone lucky enough to have one of these, they were great. they produced highly questionable cakes and brownies, but it was just so much fun. imagine an ordinary 100-watt bulb powering an oven that children were encouraged to use. well, that fun is over, thanks to the light bulb police. as we reported here last week -- or this week actually it was, the government, congress, is banning sale of traditional light bulbs in this country in the coming years, so the easy bake is losing what made it cool, the heat thrown off by that old-school bulb. while hasbro will still make them, they have been redesigned. up next here tonight, a life boat, a bottle of champagne and the royal couple. why they were all in one place today.
finally tonight, the royal couple, william and kate, most closely watched couple in the world these days, they made an outing today, their first official outing since becoming engaged. as married royals, they're going to be asked to christen a lot of vessels and break a lot of champagne bottles. today the thinking there seemed to be you're not married yet, so
start small. our own keith miller was there. >> reporter: if the future princess was nervous, she didn't show it. kate middleton on her first royal event since her engagement to prince william attracted all the attention, even adoration. >> warm smile, lovely voice. she's a natural. >> i really like the princess. she was really beautiful. >> reporter: launching a new lifeboat does not figure high in the glamorous events category, but to the locals, it was a day to welcome their new royal neighbors. >> and it gives me huge pleasure to be introducing to this relationship here and now, someone who's not only about to join the family but is also about to become an anglesonian. i did the talking but she's going to do the -- >> reporter: kate got the honors to christen the life boat with
champagne. she also managed to spill some bubbly on her prince. the body language said a lot. the prince guiding his future bride with a soft touch. >> i think what's most impressive about how kate has come across so far is that it's very easy to see her as a princess. >> reporter: events like this are tightly choreographed by the palace because protecting kate middleton from any public surprises is a priority. this is how prince william's mother, princess diana, made her first appearance after her engagement to prince charles. a far cry from today's more modest event here in wales. today's trial run went smoothly enough. but the couple was about ten minutes late. a slip the royal entourage certainly won't allow on the wedding day. keith miller, nbc news, anglesey, wales. boy, they just watch every little thing, don't they. that's our broadcast for this thursday night. thank you for being with us.
i'm brian williams. we hope to see you right back here tomorrow evening. good night. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com tonight investigators are removing the remains of a body discovered in this home. why one neighbor filed a missing persons report two weeks ago. plus, a bizarre twist of the revenge killing of a south bay woman. what investigators found in the home of the man suspected in her death. and first comes the rain and cold. time now to brace yourself for snow. the storm rolling in for the next few hours.